YOSSI SASSI — Roots and Roads (review)

YOSSI SASSI — Roots and Roads album cover Album · 2016 · Folk Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
YOSSI SASSI may be better known as the founder of Israel’s premier metal fusion band Orphaned Land which has been active since the early 90s, but since 2011 he has also launched his own solo career and in the process has incorporated a whole army of musicians that he wrested out of their respective genres to create a larger than life sound that blends progressive rock and metal with traditional Israeli folk music. In addition to his musical contributions to the world and his never ending goal of promoting peace in the Middle East, he is also the inventor of the “Bouzoukitara” which is basically a combination of the Greek Bouzouki and electric guitar that allows him to mix and meld the two sounds in a more efficient manner. ROOTS AND ROADS is his third solo offering with this one going under the YOSSI SASSI BAND moniker.

The band consists of six members that contribute a huge wealth of musical instruments which not only include the usual rock guitars, bass, keys and drums but the newly formed Bouzouikitara, traditional Bouzouki, charango, oud, sax and chumbush as well. In addition we have no less than 14 guest musicians contributing piano, Hammond keys, kanun, violins, ney (Arabic, Turkish and Persian varieties), flute, fretless bass, lap steel guitar, Diddley bow, clarinet and something called a Choiron “Wing.” If that wasn’t enough we also get a sizzling guitar solo contribution from Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on “Palm Dance.” All of these characters in this musical script all add up to one big fat rich sounding album that is exquisitely played and extraordinarily produced as to allow all the competing sounds to exist in harmony instead of a barbaric cacophonous manner.

My first impression of this is that it is very much in the vein of other Middle Eastern progressive metal fusionists such as Myrath as the rhythms, harmonies and musical scales are heavily steeped in desert lore and conjure up images of camels traversing mirage ridden sand dunes on silken road journeys but this goes far beyond Myrath in the ethnic department. As with almost all Middle Eastern music, YOSSI SASSI focuses the energetic drive first and foremost on the percussive rhythms with the melodies carrying a near equal secondary weight. Unlike bands like Orphaned Land and Myrath, the YOSSI SASSI BAND use metal as only one color on their painter’s palette and it is by no means ubiquitous in the album’s sound or feel although it’s included on most tracks when the energetic drive needs to be lifted to a new level for contrast’s sake. There is a lot more detail paid to the ethnic instruments while the metal often chugga chugs as a rhythmic intensifier.

While described as progressive rock / metal, there aren’t a lot of bizarre proggy freak outs with time sig changes run amok nor heavy reliance on dissonance. This music has a very accessible sound being instantly addictive and as seductive as the tales of Scheherezade. This is simply a must for lover’s of Middle Eastern ethnic music mixed with Western elements. With this many musical members on board there always exists the risk of too many chefs in the kitchen stumbling over one another thus ruining the perfect smorgasbord of ideas, but in the case of ROOTS AND ROADS, a competent band leader puts on his conductor’s hat and ekes out all the possibilities at the right times when needed and creates a beautiful parade of alternating softer and heavier passages. While i can’t say this is the absolute most original music by mixing these styles as its been done a few times before, i can say that this is a very pleasant display of East meets West fusion where both worlds have plenty of time to play together to create an exhilarating new take on it. Personally i like SASSI’s solo stuff over Orphaned Land. Unlike, say, bands like Secret Chiefs 3 that successfully fused Middle Eastern music with Western, YOSSI SASSI is actually from that region having been born and raised in Israel. This is the real deal. Very cool album.
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